Capt. Mark Phillips new FEI course designer for Virginia Horse Trials

cross country course
By Phelps Media Group, Inc.

Capt. Mark Phillips is the new FEI course designer for the Virginia Horse Trials on May 25-28, 2017, and October 26-29, 2017.

The Virginia Horse Center features two separate cross country courses, each with rolling terrain and a stunning view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Capt. Phillips will design the CCI*, CIC2*, CCI2* and Intermediate tracks, with VHT Organizer Andy Bowles assisting at the two-star level and John Michael Durr, designer of the Beginner Novice through Preliminary courses, assisting at the one-star level.

“We’re glad to be bringing Mark to VHT,” Bowles said. “Our hope is that his experience will increase the quality of our FEI courses and present to the competitors a challenge that is true to the level and appropriate for a destination event.”

The FEI and Intermediate competitors will experience a totally new cross country challenge than in past years. The course has been reversed and a second water complex will be built.

“There had been some concern that the Oak Hill course sent horses downhill too long near the end of the course, so to lessen the impact on the horses we reversed the track,” Bowles said. “Now all the significant climbing is done within the first third of the course. This will also place the finish line and vet box closer to the road crossing back to the barns.”

The team also received feedback on the cross-country footing and so have committed considerable efforts towards preparing the best possible galloping conditions. Construction and jump placement are scheduled to be completed early to preserve the footing on cross country, and all tracks will be aerated in advance of both competitions. Mowing has already begun and will continue on a regular basis throughout the year.

This year we’re really focused on good grass maintenance. Between mowing, aerating and keeping heavy machinery off the course as much as possible, we expect the footing to be better than ever,” Bowles said.

“We’re sincerely listening to competitor feedback and making every effort to set a high standard and provide a world-class experience for horses and riders.”

The second cross country area is home to the Beginner Novice through Preliminary courses designed by John Michael Durr. As a USEF “r” Course Designer, he joined the VHT team as part of the Course Design Mentor Program in 2015 under the tutelage of John Nicholson. As part of the natural progression for the program, Durr will be assisting Capt. Phillips in designing the one-star courses this year.

“It feels great to be involved in the design of an FEI course for the first time in my career,” Durr said. “My goal as a course designer is to educate horses and riders and prepare them for the next level. Being a part of the Mentor Program has given me invaluable experience, and I’m excited for the next step in my own education as a designer.”

The Horse Center course will also feature a newly constructed water complex that will be unveiled in May. Durr feels that this addition, as well as the multitude of other new fences constructed at VHT in the last two years, will “maximize the experience” for competitors.
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